The Bear is a book that I likely would not have read picked up if it had not been recommended. Since having a family, I find it difficult to read books about children in horrible situations. It took me several years and many recommendations before I read Sarah’s Key and I felt a similar discomfort about reading The Bear.
The Bear tells the tale of a family’s worst nightmare. The 6 year old narrator, Anna, describes their family camping trip to Algonquin Park and how her parents were attacked by a bear. The father bravely saves Anna and Alex (also known as “Stick”), ages 6 and 2, by hiding them safely in “Coleman”, their sturdy cooler. After venturing out of their protective cooler on the morning after the attack, Anna finds her catastrophically injured mother who instructs her to look after her brother by leaving the island in the canoe.
The young siblings launch away from the island with just a tin off cookies, dressed only in pyjamas and accidentally forgetting their life jackets and paddles. Anna has been traumatized by seeing the “big dog” attacking her parents but she takes her responsibility seriously, getting Alex to safety to the mainland, finding edible berries and helping him drink dirty water while they search for their way home.
I will not speak about the remainder of the book to avoid a “spoiler” other than to say that I am glad that I did give this book a chance. Reading the little girl’s unique point of view gave an interesting perspective demonstrating her strength and resilience while allowing the adult reader to identify with the bravery of the parents doing everything they could to keep their children safe. I would not suggest reading this book before a camping trip up North but would recommend reading The Bear since stories are not often told from this perspective.